Mental Health Reform

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It doesn't look like the Legislature will revisit a mental health reform plan that proposes closing regional centers in Hastings and Norfolk until next week.

Lawmakers debated the issue Wednesday but did not vote to advance it.

The proposal, backed by Gov. Mike Johanns, would close mental health regional centers in Norfolk and Hastings in a move toward more community-based care.

Lawmakers did reject an amendment that would have required those new services to be up and running at least six months before a center could be closed. The amendment by Sen. Gene Tyson of Norfolk also would have required another bill to be passed authorizing the closures after that point.

It was rejected 23-to-10.

Omaha Sen. Jim Jensen said that shows there is strong support for his underlying proposal.

Jensen said he is encouraged by positive comments made during Wednesday's debate of the measure.

Many lawmakers said now is the time to make the changes, which are long overdue. The state has discussed moving toward more community-based care for decades.